Sunday, May 29, 2011

Grinding Gears

I may be showing my age when I use a term like Grinding Gears, but that term usually refers to having a manual transmission and a clutch instead of an automatic transmission.

The sound of gears not being lined up properly and your car not moving because of that is similar to what Seth Godin talks about in my Sunday Seth:


Long-term brands and relationships are built on alignment. Here are a few examples ("I" is the royal I, not me in particular):

A perfect relationship: I want your company to help me, and your company wants to help me. We're both focused on helping the same person.

The Walmart relationship: I want the cheapest possible prices and Walmart wants to (actually works hard to) give me the cheapest possible prices. That's why there's little pushback about customer service or employee respect... the goals are aligned.

The Apple relationship: I want Apple to be cool. Apple wants to be cool. That's why there's little pushback on pricing or obsolence or disappointing developers.

The demagogue politician relationship: I will feel more powerful if you get elected and get your way. You will feel more powerful if you get elected and get your way.

The search engine relationship (when it's working): I want to find what I'm looking for. You want me to find what I'm looking for, regardless of the short-term income possibilities.

The Mercedes (formerly Cadillac) relationship: I want a prestige product that reliably delivers an expensive label that's unattainable to many. They want to reliably and consistently charge a lot for a car that sends a message to everyone else.

The farmer's market relationship: I want to eat sustainable foods that make me feel good. You want to grow sustainable foods that make me feel good.

Compare these to the ultimately doomed relationships (if not doomed, then tense) in which goals don't align, relationships where the brand took advantage of an opening but then grows out of the initial deal and wants to change it:

The Dell relationship: I want a cheap, boring, reliable computer. You want to make more profit.

The hip designer relationship: I want the new thing no one else has yet. You want to be around for years.

The search engine relationship (when it doesn't work): I want to find what I'm looking for. You want to distract me and take money to send me places I actually don't want to go.

The reluctant purchaser relationship: I don't want to waste money on something I didn't know I wanted. You want to make a commission.

The troll relationship: I want to laugh at a buffoon who doesn't realize he's making a fool of himself. You want to be respected by the mainstream.

The young actor relationship: I want the fresh-faced young movie star. You want a career that lasts more than a year.

The typical media relationship: I want to see the shows, you want to interrupt with ads.

Alignment isn't something you say. It's something you do. Alignment is demonstrated when you make the tough calls, when you see if the thing that matters the most to you is also the thing that matters the most to the other person.

The tension that comes from misalignment can work for a while, but it's when alignment kicks in that the enterprise really scales.

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